by Jewel E. Ann
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblances to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales are purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Jewel E. Ann
All rights reserved.
To my husband … my always, you fill my heart with love and my belly with laughter.
My greatest thanks will always be to my family. You are the best! I know everyone says that, but in my case it’s the honest truth. You are the gatekeepers to my sanity, my cheerleaders when I question my ability, and the grounding center of my world every single day.
Thank you, Mom, for believing in me and spending so many hours proofreading my manuscript. A special thank you to my sister for your late night proofreading with Cameron in your arms. It will be priceless to see the look on his face someday when he finds out mommy nursed him while reading sexy novels. Thank you also for reminding me that our mom is crazy for thinking there’s too much sex in my book. My readers owe you a special thanks, too!
To my best friend, Jyl – Boston was legendary! Thank you for letting me tagalong to do research and whale watching, while you sat in medical conferences all day. I love that we still make each other laugh until we cry and now probably even pee a little. Yep, we’re going to define forty as fabulous!
Regina Wamba from Mae I Design. I tried to keep my acknowledgements short in Undeniably You and completely forget to mention you, so I’ll make up for it now. You are a true artist, just brilliant, and I’m so lucky to have stumbled upon you! Thank you for being so patient with me. I can’t forget Jenessa Andrea, the beautiful model on the cover. The moment I saw the photo Regina took with you in those sexy nerd-girl glasses, I did flips (in my head) while screaming “That’s Vivian!”
Thank you to my editor, Maxann Dobson, from the Polished Pen. I love being your student and I hope I never stop learning from you. I smile every time a review acknowledges how well my books are edited; and it happens a lot!
Thank you bloggers for supporting my journey. Your endless promoting, reading, and reviewing has changed the way people read books and find authors like myself. It’s a true pleasure to share my passion for romance books with you. I have to mention a few that have made a lasting impression on me over the past year. Sandy from The Reading Café, you are the Twitter queen! Tara from The Lustful Literate, thank you for the constant kind words of encouragement. Diane from Tometender, you win the award for making my books sound, quite possibly better than they are in your enthusiastic and poetic reviews. Grace and Michelle from After Dark Book Lovers, I loved every minute of your ranting while reading the Holding You Series. If that makes me sadistic, then so be it! Elusively Ella, thank you for befriending me on Goodreads and sharing advice and opportunities for me to find connections and new readers. Finally, the thank you that will always feel inadequate but it’s all I have, goes to The Rock Stars of Romance. Your love for books and the authors who write them is just insane. Lisa, oh my, there really are no words. You taught me book lingo when I first came to you, not even knowing what a blog tour was. You invited me to “pick your brain” an offer you’re probably regretting by now, but that brain of yours has helped me immensely. I’m sure if you’ve kept all the messages we’ve shared over the past year you could publish it under comedy because I’m pretty sure I’ve vented about everything from the weather to my perimenopause symptoms. I just cannot say enough about how absolutely wonderful, kind, and generous you’ve been. Thank you!
To my amazing readers, I am eternally grateful. You have allowed me to pursue my true passion and that is a gift everyone deserves but few ever receive. The personal messages I get from some of you make my heart swell and my tears flow. You justify all my late nights, early mornings, and tedious research, AKA reading lots of books! Thank you!
I’d better throw out a final thank you to all the people I’ve either overlooked or who came into my literary life after the writing of these acknowledgments. For example, the wonderful formatters at BB E-Books that I’m sure have made this all look perfect and easy on the eyes just like you did with Undeniably You. You have the best service and I’m so thrilled to have found you.
Wake. Stretch. Shower. Then navigate through the bustling morning crowd to the subway via the corner coffee shop. A kaleidoscope of colors and the inviting bittersweet aroma of America’s favorite pick-me-up dazzles my senses.
No offense to Paul Revere, but when I think of Boston and its exhausting list of historical figures, William Rosenberg is the name that warms my chest and tempts my tummy. It’s my firm belief that his inspiration and influence in the business world fed my ambition to achieve the high merits that earned my acceptance into a well-known university north of the Charles River.
“Boston Kreme and a medium Dunkaccino, please.”
I ignore the piercing glances, rolling eyes, and subtle head shakes behind me. Yes, at five foot eleven inches I can eat whatever I want and not gain a pound. Long, wavy, ink black hair and green eyes, a runway model on the outside. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before. My personal assessment of the reflection in my mirror includes the words lanky, bony, witchy hair, monster eyes, and freaky freckles. A tiny grin tugs at the corners of my mouth as I focus on my phone, moving my thumbs over the screen with effortless strokes to send off a text.
Me:Up, bitches? 2 hrs. to study then get your asses to work. The real world awaits.
Judgments are nothing more than presumptuous thoughts, flawed opinions at best. What lies beneath my veiled “perfection” is the ugly truth––my truth, my reality, my destiny. Though, for now, I grab my decadent treats and sashay out the door with a wicked smile.
Two years after I nailed the admissions interview, I have yet to see the inside of a Harvard lecture hall, but it won’t be long now. Instead, I take the Red Line at Harvard Square to Central Square every morning while my two bitches enter the coveted black iron gates to “Grow In Wisdom.” Since my hopes of love and marriage were snuffed out like a torch my senior year of high school, I have my whole life to focus on becoming a successful entrepreneur.
The air grows thick and musty on my final descent to the subway. And then I see him, my new visual indulgence. He first captured my attention a week ago. A sky scraper among the diverse sea of heads bowed and drawn into their handheld technological gods. But then again, when you’re my height the bar for being considered tall is set pretty high. He must be at least six foot four with lean muscles, short sandy blond hair, and cornflower blue eyes. Sipping my Dunkaccino, I peek over the lid and worm my way through the morning crowd, positioning myself to get on the same car. Everyday he’s dressed in faded jeans, an old T-shirt, and leather work boots. Maybe he’s married, or has a girlfriend, but it doesn’t matter. My infatuation will go no further than basking in his sexy aura and taking mental pictures to use for my own pleasure.
The train screeches to a stop and the whoosh of the hydraulic doors sets the crowd in motion. Most mornings I find a seat opposite my rugged blue-collar worker. We play a flirty game of peek-a-boo where I unabashedly stare at him until he glances at me then diverts his shy eyes, taking a deep swallow. I eat my Boston Kreme doughnut and sip my coffee keeping my eyes fixed on him. Click, click, click—I take my mental pictures.
This morning, however, the car is herded to capacity. I find myself next to him with my drink in one hand and my doughnut in the other. As the rest of the passengers cram in, I glance up and smile. He returns a hesitant smile, and for the first time I can see his straight white teeth and dimples. Holy crap! He has dimples. My heart rate increases exponentially as I lift my doughnut toward my mouth. Dimples! The doors fold shut and the train jerks forward before my legs have a chance to balance and root into the floor.
“Oh shit! Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” I’m drowning in horrid humiliation while peeling my half-eaten doughnut off his gray T-shirt. I can’t look at him.
Through my squinted eyes, all I see is a smeared glob of chocolate frosting in the middle of his shirt. Risking a glance, a grimace takes over my face while meeting his raised brows, eyes darting back and forth between me and his shirt. Depositing the doughnut back in the bag, I retrieve the wad of napkins I shoved in my purse and begin to wipe his shirt like a mother would do to a child. He doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t move. My brain registers the faint giggles and snickers from a few of the lucky commuters who have witnessed this embarrassing mishap. I may have to start taking the bus from now on, or dress incognito so I’m not recognized as the clumsy doughnut girl.
“It’s fine,” a deep voice sounds. Long fingers encircle my wrist, halting my frantic strokes. “It’s just a shirt.”
Biting my lips together, I nod unable to make eye contact. He releases my wrist and I shove the napkins into my bag.
“I, uh … I’m just so, very clumsy … embarrassed, and uh, again … sorry.” I. Will. Not. Move. I shall stay bowed in shame until I leap from the train at the next opportunity.
“It’s really okay, no need to feel bad.”
“Central Square,” the speaker sounds as the train’s piercing brakes pull to a halt.
My frantic dash to the door threatens to take out a few unsuspecting passengers. I can’t concern myself with that; sometimes casualties are unavoidable and necessary.
“Is this your stop?” Mr. Frosting Shirt says with a questioning tone, probably because for the past week he’s gotten off the train before me.
It is today!
Without looking back I nod and sprint off the subway.
Lucky for me, when the white sign with the green planter’s pot becomes visible over the hill, there isn’t a line of miffed people waiting under it to get in the door.
“Maggie, I’m so sorry,” I say with a genuine apologetic tone as I shove my bag under the counter and tie on my green apron over my fitted T-shirt and frayed denim shorts. “I had to take the bus and walk the last mile.”
“Vivian, dear, why are you apologizing? I told you to take the day off anyway.” Maggie shakes her head while arranging the packs of seedlings into cardboard flats.
I take over while she rings the customer’s order up on the register. “I know, but this is the busiest time of year and who knows if or when Alex and Kai will show up to help.”
Maggie, proud owner of The Green Pot nursery, originally started her business as a front for growing marijuana. She’s not a law-breaking pothead, per say. She’s a ten-year cervical cancer survivor.
“You don’t see me looking too concerned do you?”
I laugh. Maggie has saintly patience and I love working for her. The Green Pot has become a legitimate greenhouse—one of the top suppliers for local landscaping companies—but she still has a stash of wacky tabbacky for those who don’t want to jump through the hoops to get it legally. Her only request is that these VIP customers don’t all come on the same day with their scarf and bandana wrapped heads asking for the Brown Bag special.
“Chance should be here soon if you want to go out back and double check to see if his order is all there.”
Ah, Chance Konrad, the horny green jack-of-all-trades owner of The Handy Hunk. Chance is a real player and, in his eyes, I am the World Series of his playboy game. For two years he has tried to sweep me off my feet and into his bed. For two years I have rejected his often times outrageous efforts to win my affection.
The familiar red flatbed truck backs into the loading zone as I finish double checking the order. “Vivian.” Chance’s velvety voice caresses my name as he strips me with his usual lustful gaze.
I give him the eye roll he’s come to expect while shaking my head. “Chance.”
I’m not naive enough to think that he has been waiting in patient celibacy for me to succumb to his advances. In fact, I can’t imagine him going a single night without some gullible girl’s naked body wrapped around his. Not that I too don’t find him physically appealing, but I’ve resigned myself to believe that all my orgasms will be self-induced. Chance is eye candy, another visual for my private moments. Click. Click. Click.
“Hate to disappoint you, I know how much you look forward to our sexy banter, but my brother is working with me now so you’ll need to use a little more discretion with your advances,” Chance says as he leans against the back of his truck with his arms folded over his chest.
Uncontrolled laughter erupts from my chest but halts in my throat, nearly choking me, as the other door to the truck opens and a very tall guy steps out with a chocolate stain stamped in the middle of his gray T-shirt.
Kill. Me. Now!
“Viv, this is my brother Oliver. Don’t mind his shirt. Some chick on the subway rammed into him with her doughnut.”
My eyes are so wide I think they’re locked in this position. “That uh, really sucks. She must have felt awful.”
“Yeah, what did you say?” Chance looks at Oliver. “That she scurried off at the next stop with her tail between her legs?” Chance laughs.
Oliver grimaces, glancing at me. “I don’t think that’s exactly what I said.”
“Yeah, bro, it was. You also said––”
“I’m sure she gets the point!”
I nod and cross my arms over my chest. “Oliver’s right. I get it. I can totally imagine it. But I’m sure she didn’t run off with her tail between her legs. It was probably just her stop.” I give Oliver a tightlipped grin and offer my hand. “Anyway, Vivian Graham, nice to meet you.”
Oliver stares at my hand for a few moments then meets my eyes. “Nice to meet you, Vivian.” We shake hands and my grip cinches to convey my unspoken displeasure with his interpretation of what happened this morning.
“Mind if I use the restroom before we load up and head out?” Chance asks, not waiting for my response before he heads into the building.
Oliver and I divert our gazes away from each other as an awkward silence closes in on us. I glance at his shirt and an uncontrollable giggle bubbles up and out.
“What are the chances?” I laugh, shaking my head and meeting his gaze.
He grins and chuckles.
“I really am sorry. I’ll get you a new shirt.”
Wiping his hand over the dried chocolate stain, he licks his lips and smiles so big his dimples steal my attention. “Not necessary. It will probably come out and if not, I’m quite certain I have at least twenty other old T-shirts just like it.”